My first 70.3 was like everything and nothing that I expected! Since this race report is rather long, I’ve broken it up into two parts. Here is part the first!
By Saturday night, it was still up in the air as to whether we would swim, as at the athlete meeting Saturday afternoon, Rev3 told us they would keep us posted and make the final call at 5:30 a.m. race morning as to whether we could swim. Looking out at the churning Gulf, I was torn; I wanted to swim of course, but the surf was a little intense.
The alarm went off Sunday morning, and E and I were immediately checking social media to see if a call had been made on the swim. At 5:30 a.m. on the dot, Rev3 tweeted and Facebooked that the swim was cancelled, and that the race would feature a time trial start instead. While a lot of people griped about missing the swim, it was the smartest call they could make. It just wouldn’t have been safe for folks out there.
Rev3 gives you temporary tattoos with your number instead of doing body marking with a marker like most races (which also eliminates a step once you get there in the morning). I also applied sunscreen. Tips for anyone gearing up for their first 70.3: Just because your tri top never rides up, don’t assume that it will stay in place during the race. By that I mean, take a minute to perhaps make sure that you apply sunscreen to your lower back and make sure that you get most of your upper back. Because most of my pain in the couple days following the race is from the horrific sunburn I endured and less from any lingering muscle pain.
Because of this, the race started later than originally planned. It was decided that the pros would do a 1.5 mile run to start, and afterward, the Age Groupers would do a time trial start, in numerical order. We could wear socks and sunglasses, but otherwise had to act like we were going into T1.
I set up T1 like normal. Nutrition: Aero bottle with a nuun tab (mmm….lemon tea!), bottle of Hammer Perpetuem, and a PowerBar gel just in case. Otherwise, all the normal things were there. Rev3 has these nice individual boxes/racks for your bike and transition area, so no mat needed, and things stay neat.
It was when everyone got in line that I realized by waiting until the last minute to sign up, I had put myself 1) at the back of the back (481 out of about 486) and also with all the guys. The line moved pretty quickly, but I knew I was at a disadvantage for the day if I went slow time-wise; there wouldn’t be a lot of folks behind me.
Overall, I was in and out relatively quickly.
We had studied the course map the night before, and figured out where the worst of the wind would be. This turned out to be about miles 25 through 56. Yay. So the first 25 miles were awesome; an easy cruise with the wind at my back, with wonderful views of the Gulf, and big, shady oak trees overhead. It was lovely and peaceful.
Then, at mile 25, a left hand turn went directly into the wind. The next 31 miles were mostly headwind and crosswinds, 20 mile per hour wind speed with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Doing most of my training on A1A has prepared me to ride in the wind. But not like this. Oh my god. It was ridiculous.
I made a point to stay on my nutrition, taking a swig of Perpetuem every 15-20 minutes. Overall, I haven’t been a huge fan of having a liquid nutrition. I don’t like not having exact amounts doled out in increments, like you would with a gel for example. However, I trained with this, and it does work. If I ever do a longer distance again, I’ll probably do gels. For anything shorter, I would likely do Hammer Heed, which I like a lot. The other thing is that Perpetuem spoils after many hours, and that always worries me, though it’s never been an issue.
But anyways. I drank my nuun-laced water, and felt pretty good. Aid stations were located at miles 15, 30 and 45, though I didn’t take advantage until mile 45, when I grabbed a water bottle (first time ever doing that on the bike! Super proud of myself for not spazzing out and falling).
By around mile 35, my legs were starting to ache. The problem with being in such a strong, sustained headwind is that it made it really difficult to tell what kind of effort you were putting out. It also made it difficult to tell how much I was sweating. It was on the cooler side out, but the sun was strong.
The course was overall really nice. Police and volunteers were everywhere, and the volunteers in particular were amazing. I never felt alone on the course, even when I couldn’t see other riders, because there was always a volunteer, or even members of the local community, out there cheering me on.
I stayed pretty strong mentally against the wind. The only bad part was at about mile 54 when I knew I was almost done, and realized that there was a medium-sized bridge to be conquered. I can’t tell you the number of nasty things I was saying to that bridge in my head. I was swearing a blue streak. It was just the very last thing I wanted to see at the moment! But it wasn’t a large bridge, my legs were just tired and I was over the wind. I was rewarded on the other side with newly paved roads as smooth as butter.